A commercial vehicle traffic stop of a lone truck appears to have uncovered an international theft and copper manufacturing operation.
The investigation eventually led to the halting of more than $1 million worth of stolen copper being shipped to China.
According to a news release, Arizona Department of Public Safety Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit officers stopped a truck on Interstate 10. Inside the trailer, officers found 49 large copper plates.
Each plate found was 4 by 4 feet and 2 inches thick, weighing about 880 pounds, the news release said.
Working with the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s criminal investigation division, officers searched a home in Marana, AZ. Inside the house officers found 56 copper plates worth $300,000, and later seized three trucks, three semi-trailers, a fork lift and two hand carts allegedly used in the operation.
Continuing the investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Port of Los Angeles/Port of Long Beach seized 359 more copper plates. Officers found and “retrieved” six shipping containers with stolen copper between Oct. 2 and Nov. 6 – stopping three containers one day before their scheduled departure and ordering the return of three more containers that had already left the ports. The three stopped before their departure were headed to Hong Kong and had been declared as “metal scrap (copper alloy waste and scrap).
During their investigation, Arizona Department of Public Safety officers discovered blueprints, pictures and weight and mineral composition.
The Arizona Daily Star reported that security workers from a mining facility in Hayden, AZ, tipped off police about flatbed loads of copper being taken from the mine to a ranch. The tip sparked the entire investigation.
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